The Music of Nashville - Season 1, Volume 2
ABC's "Nashville" may not be burning up the Nielsens, but it's on fire when it comes to "The Music of Nashville - Season 1, Volume 2." Employing some of the best songwriters from Nashville or anywhere else (Patty Griffin, Lucinda Williams, Sarah Buxton) and utilizing the vocals of its stars, there's a realness to much of the music (whether it be country or country-pop) that is lacking in much of country music today.
While Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere play the leads on the series, as an aging superstar and an ambitious up-and-comer, respectively, they also have the weakest voices as singers (in Panettiere's defense, that may be because her character is supposed to be a bit of a studio creation). That is not to say, however, that they're given short shrift with the musical material.
Britton performs the best song the series has yet to offer, "Stronger Than Me," a melancholy meditation on personal demons written by Buxton, who should be a far bigger star herself, and Kate York, who provides backup vocals alongside country royalty Pam Tillis and J.D. Souther. On the other hand, Britton's also got "Bitter Memory," on which she's so overproduced she could be any anonymous dance diva. The song's not terrible; it's just terribly plastic.
Panettiere gets her own stab at pop with "Hypnotizing," a perfect slice of bubble gum with a banjo, the only thing keeping it in the realm of the Grand Ole Opry. She also, however, gets "Nothing In This World Will Ever Break My Heart Again," a fantastic declaration that sounds like a '60s anthem of heartbreak a la Merrilee Rush's "Angel of the Morning."
Sam Palladio duets with the tremulous Clare Bowen on two duets ("I Will Fall" could be an early Nickel Creek cut, and "Fade Into You" is a moody poem), but he really shines when he rocks out on "Gun For a Mouth," which would fit in with any classic '90s indie rock. Even Stella and Maisy Lennon, who play Britton's young daughters, get in on the act and are so good they make the ubiquitous "Ho Hey" sound fresh again.
It's hard to quibble considering 90% of the soundtrack is so strong, but the absence of a song by Charles Esten's Deacon is surprising. He's the stud of the series and informs his pieces with a weathered gravitas the young pups can't match yet. The biggest surprise, however, is that, with such quality production and songwriting, no song from the series has become an actual hit. This is contemporary country of the (mostly) highest caliber and deserves success, just as the series does as a well-done musical soap.
"The Music of Nashville - Season 1, Volume 2"
Big Machine Records